An eventful AGM…
On Monday evening, 20th March, Save Capel held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the Capel Village Hall, Five Oak Green. It was a very well-attended meeting with around 70 people present, with a very interesting agenda and discussion.
We were joined by Ben Chapelard, Leader of TWBC, and Hugo Pound, Cabinet member for Housing & Planning, who updated the audience on the progression of the local plan and participated in a lively discussion (rather like Question Time). The meeting also received an important update from Greg Clark MP.
In this edition you can find out what has been happening, the proposed way forward for the examination, and details of the new Executive to lead us through this crucial, and hopefully the last, stage of the process. Whilst this is necessarily longer than usual, it is well worth reading.
Update from the Save Capel Chairman
Stewart gave an update of what has been happening with the campaign over the last 18 months. It also covered the Local Plan process from now on, the campaign’s finances, and the focus of the Executive for the coming months.
For those of you who couldn’t attend you can read the update here.
In summary, a lot of work has been done over the last 18 months to persuade the examining Inspector, Matthew Birkinshaw, that the evidence put forward by TWBC has been insufficient for him to find the Capel sites in the Local Plan “sound”. He demonstrated his acceptance of that in his Initial Findings published in November 2022. In spite of this, TWBC still wish to pursue all three options that he suggested, to produce yet more evidence, to perhaps justify their ridiculous proposals submitted previously. In essence, this means TWBC spending a lot more time, and taxpayers money, to evaluate the way forward already strongly suggested by Mr Birkinshaw, namely to remove Tudeley Village (TGV) from the revised plan.
The following slide demonstrates this clearly, which was discussed at some length with the Council leaders present. You can read the confirmed timetable that the Council are working to in the section on ‘next steps’ below.
Election of the Save Capel Executive
According to Save Capel’s constitution, the Executive needs to be approved by Members at the AGM. Dave Parrish, Chairman of Capel Greenbelt Protection Society (CGPS), took the Chair for this part of the Agenda to deal with the resolution.
All existing members of the Executive indicated their willingness to continue to serve the campaign. Additionally, it was proposed by Andy Rankine, seconded by Rufus Beard, that Chris Wise be elected to the Executive as well. This was welcomed by the current Executive members and the motion was voted unanimously in favour by the Members present.
The Executive that has been elected to lead us through this crucial stage, for the next year, is therefore confirmed as:
Stewart Gledhill (current Chair)
We greatly appreciate your confidence and will continue to seek the outcome we are all fighting for. Our community has shown what can be achieved and together we can win this!
The Executive had invited the following guests to the AGM:
- Greg Clark MP for Tunbridge Wells
- Ben Chapelard – TWBC Leader
- Hugo Pound – TWBC Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning
- David Hayward – TWBC Cabinet Member for Governance and Transparency
- Simon Bell – barrister & instructing solicitor for our legal team
- TMBC Councillors – as a large proportion of our supporters live in TMBC
Unfortunately, David had a prior commitment and Simon gave apologies having become unwell shortly before. Greg Clark was unable to attend as he was away on Government business in Japan. However, he did send a very supportive message which was presented at the AGM…
We were very grateful, and encouraged, that Ben and Hugo were able to join us; in the circumstances it was the right, yet brave, thing to do. Hugo was offered the opportunity to address the meeting, which he did, a summary of what he said would be:
- He was committed to his role as Cabinet Member for Housing & Planning
- TWBC believe that they should examine all three options put forward by the Inspector and that is what they are on course to do.
- Simply removing TGV from the Local Plan would have knock-on effects elsewhere in the Borough (A21 at Kippings Cross was mentioned) and therefore alternative options needed to be explored.
- Whereas Greg Clark supports an approach of Investment before Expansion (I before E), Hugo made the point that without Expansion reduced funds are generated for Investment (in Infrastructure) and that by removing TGV a big hole would appear in the pot of money available.
- He also said that, in his personal opinion, there was “too much land designated as green belt and/or AONB”.
Members were not impressed with much of what was said and raised a number of points in an extended Q&A session towards the end of the meeting (see below).
There then followed updates from CGPS, by their Chair Dave Parrish, and Capel Parish Council (CPC) by Maggie Fenton, Vice-chair who was standing in for CPC Chair Hugh Patterson being unavailable due to illness.
AN IMPORTANT DATE FOR YOUR DIARIES…the Annual Parish Meeting for Capel is on Monday, 3rd April 2023 at Capel Village Hall starting 7.30pm…the Capel Neighbourhood Plan consultation will be launched…AND you will have the opportunity to hear from Carlos Hone, TW Head of Planning… and Leader Ben Chapelard is also expected to attend. You should be able to ask your own questions on the night…DON’T MISS IT !!
Next Steps in the Process
No matter how long it takes the Council to decide on their strategy and provide evidence to the examination, the next steps are broadly:
As set out below, the Council’s indicative timetable already takes the examination into 2024 but includes a reliance on consultants and the costs will continue to pile up. If the Council agreed to follow the Inspector’s preferred option of removing Tudeley Village now, both the costs and risk of further delay could be minimised. They have set aside a further £851,000 to cover advice from consultants and counsel during these steps through to adoption.
The important May 4th local elections may change the make-up of the Council, and the newly formed Full Council are scheduled to determine the way forward on 5th July.
Stewart then opened up the AGM to Questions from the Floor.
There then followed a very robust discussion session with most of the questions being directed towards Hugo and Ben in their TWBC roles. The key points are as follows:
Maggie Fenton, on behalf of the Executive, asked Ben and Hugo to remember:
- that the whole TGV piece started in 2018, at which time there were three other sites proposed for “garden villages”.
- then, in 2019, following the proposal from the Hadlow Estate to TWBC, suddenly, TGV became the preferred option.
To be fair, neither Ben, nor Hugo (who wasn’t elected to the Council until 2019) were aware of this. They agreed to take this away and look at the history.
Several Members spoke, reiterating many of the facts that we had all put into the Reg 18 and 19 submissions; which had been largely ignored.
Major dissatisfaction was expressed by Members about the time and cost of the proposed further evidence-gathering that TWBC are embarked upon.
Mark Davis, a TMBC Councillor for a ward in Tonbridge which borders Capel Parish, referred to the letter TWBC had sent to the Inspector on February 17th which stated that “There are ongoing discussions with TMBC about their concerns which should be concluded by the end of March”. Mark pointed out that TMBC Councillors were not aware of these discussions and that, as the end of March is next week, he was surprised.
To conclude, Ben Chapelard said that he and Hugo had come along “to listen”, which they had done. They would take away what they had heard and reflect on it.
An excellent AGM, sometimes these things can be somewhat tedious but necessary; this one was far more than that! That said, at the moment, we are looking at yet another year of fighting the TWBC Local Plan. That means much more time and effort from our Executive, other members, and we certainly need to budget for consultant and legal advice to effectively challenge the forthcoming proposals at East Capel….but we do not yet know whether TGV will be pursued. In any event, this costs real money and therefore we will need further funds to support the fight.
We are fortunate to have these components at the heart of our campaign:
- A large group of passionate Members and Supporters
- The support of Capel Parish Council and the charity (CGPS)
- Very generous donors to the campaign so far, and hopefully, going forward
- A committed, knowledgeable, and willing Executive who can also call on the resources of other Members/Supporters when necessary.
- The ongoing support of TMBC
- It now appears we also have the support of Greg Clark MP and Tom Tugendhat MP
SO, MUCH TO DO… SOME THINGS IN OUR FAVOUR… BUT THE FIGHT MUST GO ON TO PROTECT OUR HISTORIC LANDSCAPE AND WAY OF LIFE.
As ever, the Save Capel Executive would like to thank you all for your continuing support. We’d love to hear your feedback on this via email to email@example.com
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!
Stewart, Ian, Dave, Maggie, Charlie, Jan, Mark, and Chris